On December 8th, I reported that a NW Natural work crew had left an unmarked steel plate in the high-speed downhill bike lane at Fox Hollow and 46th. The following day they finished work and replaced the dangerous steel plate with an asphalt patch. The crew did not bother to grade the asphalt patch level with the rest of the concrete bike lane, creating a dangerous hump in the otherwise pristine bike lane. I cried foul, pointing out that this was an extreme hazard because people on bikes, usually traveling in excess of 25mph in this area, would not expect this hump to come out of nowhere. I tested the hump myself at 25mph on my Xtracycle loaded with groceries and caught air under both my wheels. Needless to say if a 190lb rider can catch air on an 80+ lb bike, this creates quite a hazard for lighter rider on a road bike who may not expect to find themselves suddenly airborne. (if you want to catch air you can always ride on Lorane.)
I reported the hazard using the City’s online hazard reporting form and e-mailed City of Eugene Bike/Ped Coordinator Lee Shoemaker. I also e-mailed NW Natural directly, though they never responded. Thankfully, the city officials listened. The next morning a City of Eugene inspector was at the scene and left a large sign warning of the bump.
Then nothing happened for a little over a month, with the exception that the sign blew over several times until I secured it myself. Finally, around January 12th, NW Natural re-patched the area using concrete and graded it perfectly. I know it was them because their name was on their barricades – which were left in the bike lane overnight and not lit. It took them a month, but NW Natural finally did the right thing (albeit in a dangerous way).
So what does this all mean? First, if you see a hazard, please report it to the city. It might take a month, but that’s better than it never being fixed. Secondly, it’s important to make a stink about this sort of thing because it will help companies like NW Natural think twice about their construction practices. Companies need to understand that when they do construction on a bike lane they need to leave its condition as good as or better than when they found it. If not, they’ll just have to come back and fix it. They’ll soon learn that it’s cheaper to do it right the first time. And third, we are lucky to live in a city like Eugene where we have the power to persuade companies to come back and fix their mistakes. If I’d brought this issue up anywhere else that I’ve lived I would have just been laughed at.
Now, if only we could get city crews not to block the bike lane with signs over a 1/4 mile before people on bikes actually need to merge… (I guess it’s the thought that counts, right?)